When you work at a bar you have plenty of downtime with nothing to do but talk to your co-workers. This was the case when I worked security at Red Square in Burlington Vt. Red Square was a big club/ bar on the main street of Burlington and because of the secular nature of the place the “fields were white for harvest.”
One of the first things that struck me was how many people working there identified themselves as “catholic”. They weren’t practicing the Faith but they weren’t ashamed to admit to me that they were baptized in the Church. The other unfortunate thing that struck me was how well read most of them were in the New Age trends that are so popular right now. Almost all of them had read the book “The Secret” and many of them were devoted readers of “A New Earth”
When I would ask why they turned to these books and teachings many of them answered that they were looking for fulfillment, peace, meaning, love, light and life. When pushed they struggled to actually define what these themes meant. My natural question would be “Do you feel like you are really living now?” and they would all describe this process of “enlightenment” they are going through. They would say something like, ”well I am getting there.”
The most disturbing part of all of this is that the themes that appealed to them (fulfillment, peace, meaning, love, light and life) are all Christian themes rich in meaning. It amazes me that so many of them probably heard about things like Light, Love and Light thousands of times in their Christian childhoods and yet they think these New Age movements are the real place to find them.
I started to realize that I had to use these themes while witnessing to them in order to appeal to that need and desire in their hearts. This was an easy thing to do because each of those themes find their source in Christ Jesus. While I usually try to stress the aspect of conversion and the change a relationship with Christ has made in my life, to those experimenting with the New Age movement I tell them of the inflow of light, life, love and true peace coming from our Lord.
Here are some things to think about when dealing with someone interested in the “New Age” spirituality (particularly the popular trends now publicized greatly by Oprah etc…)
Bring reality to the forefront. An outsider with a Christian worldview might look at some of these teachings and quickly realize at there core is a denial of actual real events happening in the world. They draw strongly on the idea that “pereception is reality”. Many of them talk about a sort of “gate” they think they control letting in only positive events. Remind them of reality and the idea that we are living in a real world and need real solutions to things like suffering, anger, hate, death, and stress. Christ present a real solution to this real broken world. Christ is not an escape but an answer and because of this they must admit, in the end, that He is more real than what they are escaping into.
Remember who’s behind this It is common knowledge that direct involvement in the occult can lead to extraordinary demonic attacks. But I have a feeling that deliverance ministries, and Exorcists in America will be bombarded in the years to come with cases originating with the involvement with these New Age teachings. Some of the “teachers” or gurus even admit to learning these teachings through “Channeling”. The Evil One is behind this and so while they may not be witches or Satanists they may still be under extraordinary influence of evil spirits. Pray for protection, liberation and healing.
Present Jesus the way He was meant to be presented. I am certainly no expert, by any means, at evangelizing. But one thing you could never say is that I present a boring version of the Gospel. Unfortunately many of these people who were raised Christian never heard the Gospel preached correctly. This is especially true for Catholics. CCD classes just didn’t usually cut it. Christ came to set fire… Think about that before ever telling someone about Him. He is dynamic, engaging, dangerous ( to our mediocrity) and full of life. He is not boring, dull, binding or sad. If they disagree then they need a second look. A real look this time.
In the end a joyful witness is the best medicine.Exhibiting joy and peace in your own life and identifying that it can only come through a passionate relationship with the One who is light, life and love is the only remedy. Eventually they will realize that none of those ideal they are striving for can be obtained through following the teachings they read. Hopefully (we pray) they will remember where we found them.
If they are Christians remind them that these new age teachings are not in line with scripture or the Church. Believe it or not but many of them are surprised to hear this. I was once invited to lunch at the home of one of the most influential pro-life, Christian, conservative philanthropists in America. She had pictures of herself with all the republican presidents for the last 40 years, as well as pictures with Billy Graham and several Cardinals. When lunch began each of us sat down to a copy of the book “A new Earth” for us to take home. She had no clue the ideas in this book were hostile to Christianity.
Love is shown through real concrete actions. One of the most popular leaders in the New Age movement, one that has made his way into the lives of countless Christians has this strange teaching about sending certain feelings to others. For example he will say that when he encounters a difficult person he will start sending them feelings of love and positive energy. Mother Teresa of Calcutta is the perfect answer for this nonsense. No one will doubt the incredible love of this woman. You can ask them to imagine if all she did was stay clean and tidy and “send feelings of love to people” instead of getting down embracing people, cleaning them and feeding them. Would they even know who she was today if that were the case?
Psychology, Success literature and Self help are not New Age. Many people take up these books thinking they are “self help” books. This is not the case. The teachings in these books are about much more than discipline, habits, relationships, goals etc. They are presenting a new world view and are therefore hostile to the Christian Faith. Do not let them tell you it’s just a self help book.
Read the Churches Statement on the New Age movement. The Vatican Council for Interreligious dialogue released a document called, “Jesus Christ, Bearer of the Water of Life.” It is an excellent start to understanding the differences between the two beliefs. It can be found here:http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/interelg/documents/rc_pc_interelg_doc_20030203_new-age_en.html
All the gods of the nations are idols but the Lord God brings new life…
Dave VanVickle is a Catholic speaker and writer focusing on the Universal Call to Holiness and Authentic Catholic Spirituality. He is currently employed as the Director of Evangelization for the parishes of the Catholic Community of Wexford, PA.